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Bradley shrinks deficit through ongoing financial plans

Bradley has seen changes to leave their deficit that reached $10 million dollars.

Bradley University became one of many American institutions hit with adverse financial effects as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, due to administrative planning, the university has grown from a significant deficit in April 2020 to an estimated surplus in the near future.

A media release from Bradley’s Office of Public Relations, issued via email on April 15, shed light on the strategy the university developed to correct its fiscal setbacks, further connecting to a wider need for changes in order for American industries to move forward.

As background information, the release described higher education as one of the numerous industries that are “slow to make change.” They emphasized a shift in business modeling as essential in light of challenges like demographic changes and fallout from the pandemic. 

“Significant changes in how we do business are needed if we want to survive the many challenges that lie ahead,” the media release said.

While Bradley faced estimates of $10 million in deficit, this number was cut in half through extensive financial planning by the end of 2020, according to the media release. An operating surplus is now expected for the fiscal year of 2023. The university’s manageable endowment assets were also reported at $350 million, marking a 30 percent increase over the past five years.

The release went on to explain how Bradley took to addressing the deficit: beginning a series of investments to help the university adjust to the changing system of higher education. The investments, still ongoing, were designated to several categories including:

Strategic planning

Bradley set out to develop a new plan in line with pre-existing goals to set a vision over the next three to five years.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

Bradley hired a vice president of diversity and inclusion to assist in building a more accommodating campus.

New branding

Bradley also looked to the future through updating the university brand to better reflect current students, alumni, staff and faculty, as well as appeal to prospective students.

Administration organization transformation

Bradley tailored the processes of its administration organization to be as efficient as possible.

Advancement office overhaul

Bradley made a five-year plan to increase alumni and community engagement, as well as produce a five-fold increase in fundraising.

Incentive-based budgeting

Bradley implemented models used by other universities, such as Purdue University, that turn its colleges into “revenue centers.” Colleges are assigned revenue and support costs to uplift them with proactive financial responsibilities.

As described by the release, the model allows for higher opportunities for student success, as well as the ability for those supervising the model to make more educated decisions in regard to the colleges.

Furthermore, Bradley hired new C-suite (executive-level) personnel in Sheryl Cox. Added as senior vice president, COO and CFO in February 2021, Cox’s background in corporate work such as private equity makes for a foundation of great productivity, according to Bradley executives including President Stephen Standifird.

“Sheryl is able to help us make a fundamental change in how we operate because she looks at it from a totally different perspective,” Standifird said, as quoted by the release. “She doesn’t hesitate to make or suggest changes. She’s used to working at a much faster speed, which means she can help us pivot much more quickly.”

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